Three-Minute Rejection & Mistakes

So this afternoon, I sent a query out to an agent. I have spent so much time on my queries that I think I actually have spent more time on the queries than I have actually writing the novel. Seriously. Every query I do has the same basic synopsis for the novel, but my biography and my introduction to the agent are all unique to that agent, based on what their website or bio stated, and also so they know I’m familiar with their work. After all, I’m not just sending out a query to every agent I can find. I am picking ones that seem to represent people who write books that are similar in tone to the ones for which I am seeking representation. It only makes sense, and it saves their time and mine from querying agents who don’t represent my style of writing.

While I understand the theory behind querying far and wide, writers should query smart too. After all, agents handle tons of writers’ manuscripts per week, and you never know who might remember you or not remember you–but if you’re going to be remembered, you don’t want it to be because you queried them with a fiction fantasy novel when they only represent nonfiction historical manuscript. That just gives you a bad name, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll write a nonfiction historical manuscript and they’ll remember you and say, “Nope, they can’t read guidelines.”

Anyway, though I’ve read, re-read, edited, tweaked, re-edited, rewritten, written again and edited again, I managed to make a last minute change, and when I did, I typoed a word. Wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t notice it until after the SEND button had been pressed. I meant to write the words ‘find’ and instead, I wrote ‘fine’. Ah, well. I guess that 1) everyone makes a mistake now and again and 2) if that’s enough to knock me out of the running, then it wasn’t meant to be anyway, right?


Seems they selected a winner for the NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest. I’m with many of the commenters that the winner definitely wasn’t the one I considered the best out of the ones that did get posted, but then, there were a couple that were posted that were really awful. Then again, there were several that were really good. The author who judged had said that it was the most creative use of the words required for the guidelines and that no other writer had used the words in the same way, but that shouldn’t have been the only criterion for judging, IMO.

To top it off, I never received confirmation that mine was received, and I didn’t get listed on the site anywhere. With over 4,000 submissions, I have to wonder if many are not simply slipping through the cracks. That’s what I’ll tell myself to make the sting of it a bit easier to take. After reading this time’s winner, and seeing how many submissions were received, I have to wonder if I will enter this one again or not. It took me some time to parse down a story to fewer than 600 words, and it’s not like there’s a cash prize here. I still think it’s a neat idea to have a story read over the program, but for a writer who does this for a living, the only thing you get from it is a credit. I will likely enter again if an idea flows from me easily, but if not, I won’t stress over it. I’m not even sure if they are doing others. If you want to read the winner and see if they are, you can find more information here.

So, since they haven’t published my story and it obviously didn’t win, I thought I’d share it with you here on my blog. The rules/guidelines were that the story must be fiction, must be fewer than 600 words and tell a complete story, and that it must use the words: plant, fly, button, trick.

Here’s my three-minute fiction submission to the NPR.


By Michelle L Devon

Langley sat on the edge of the bed in the hotel room and fastened the last button on her blouse while he zipped the fly on his pants.

“I’m sorry,” she said to him. “I have to go.”

“It’s all right.”

“My husband—“

“You’re married?”

“Yeah,” she murmured.

“Figures.” He scoffed.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t expect you to understand.”

Langley left the hotel room without looking behind her. She hoped it worked, because she was getting tired of the random strangers and anonymous sex in hotel rooms in the middle of the afternoon. She felt like a hooker turning tricks, except she wasn’t getting any cash for the benefit. The reward would be worth it.

When she arrived home, Todd waited for her in the kitchen. She planted a kiss on his forehead and asked, “How was your day, honey?”

“Fantastic,” he said. “I missed you, though.”

“I missed you too, baby,” she said, smiling at him. “I’m going to hit the shower. Been at the club, you know. Then I’ll start dinner, all right?”

“I’ve got a better idea,” Todd said, putting the mail he’d been sorting back on the table. “Why don’t you shower and change, and I’ll take us out for dinner?”

Langley smiled again. She loved her husband, so very much. It pained her to have to keep her afternoon secrets, but she knew she loved him enough to bear that pain alone.


Dinner, a little dancing, and then Langley and Todd made their way back home, where the couple made love tenderly and passionately. Langley fell asleep in his arms, sated.

Three weeks later, she sat in the bathroom and pushed the button on the stopwatch. Two minutes from then, she’d know. She paced the floor of the bathroom, chanting, “One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand,” ticking the seconds out loud while she watched the numbers on the stopwatch roll downward until the time was up.

She looked at the single stripe on the display of the white stick on the counter.


She sighed and then carefully wrapped up the pregnancy test strip, walked downstairs and tossed it in the bottom of the trashcan in the kitchen, under some trash so it wouldn’t be found by accident. She didn’t want to get Todd’s hopes up until it was certain. He’d been so devastated before when she couldn’t get pregnant. Langely didn’t want to hurt him like that again.

She walked upstairs and changed into a springtime dress with a button-up front and a pair of strappy sandals. She applied lipstick and perfume, brushed through her hair and headed out the door.

Half an hour later, Langley sat at the bar, stirring her drink. She watched each man shooting pool in a tournament. One of them had black hair and blue eyes, just like her beloved Todd. He was even built like her husband.

“Perfect,” she whispered.

When the stranger’s blue eyes caught her own fixed on him, she planted a smile on her face and winked. When he turned to take his shot, she loosened the top button on her blouse.

“Just one more time,” she mumbled, fighting the shame she felt at her actions.

An hour and a few drinks later, Langley was on her way out the door with the blue-eyed man on her arm, heading for her favorite hotel room. Nature had played a cruel trick by not giving them the child Todd had desperately wanted. Langley was simply giving nature a little shove.

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6 comments to Three-Minute Rejection & Mistakes

  • sharkbytes  says:

    Ha… that’s pretty cute. I’ll go read the winner now.

  • Dk  says:

    That’s a nice story up there. I liked the way things came on surface near the end..

    And the winner story at NPR, I hardly understand it. lol…

  • sharkbytes  says:

    Michy- I read the first 10. The first one is stupid. Makes me think it won because the subject was gay love. Also, it calls attention to the key words. Did they say that’s what they wanted? I would think the better stories use all of them without calling attention to their diversity. There are several I like better than “Not Calling Attention to Ourselves.” Yours among them. I think my favs of the finalists I read are “Thirty Seven,” “Bird Man,” and “Perfect Blue.” There were a couple that I don’t think should have ranked that high. Of course this is all my opinion.

  • Michy  says:

    Yeah, that’s kinda what I was thinking myself. I mean, it’s all so subjective anyway, but I thought some of the finalists did a fantastic job and deserved a bit more than the one that won. It was disjointed to me, and many folks are saying they don’t understand it really.

    Anyway, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad I entered! Now everyone can read it here, so no love lost! 4000 submissions is a lot!

  • LaurieM  says:

    I read the winner. I was not impressed in the least.It was flat, sort of lifeless. It didn’t even feel like a story to me. Very disjointed. But it is like any other art, something for everybody I guess. I wouldn’t have picked it.

    I am glad I entered too. It was something new to try at least and you never know unless you try.

    Your story made me think of that Heart song,
    “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You”. Now I have it stuck in my head, lol.

  • Blossom Finne  says:

    Just wanted to let you know that your post was extremely well written and worth bookmarking. I have shared with my facebook friends as well.

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